Following suit with other Minnesota counties, Hubbard County is refusing to repay approximately $25,000 to the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS).

Hubbard County Social Services Director Brian Ophus presented a draft letter from the county to DHS Commissioner Jodi Harpstead during Tuesday’s board meeting.

Ophus said it’s difficult to anticipate the county’s total invoice, “but we figure it’s roughly around $25,000 right now, but that could go up depending on what all comes of this. This is our letter stating that we’re united as counties and are not going to pay back for DHS’ mistakes.”

From January 2014 to May 2019, DHS mismanaged payments to chemical dependency treatment providers. According to Ophus, certain stays at facilities classified as “institutes of mental disease” (IMD) for people with substance abuse disorder (SUD) were improperly billed to Medical Assistance, due to DHS error.

In November 2019, DHS informed counties of the recently discovered billing errors. In December 2019, the state social service agency notified counties and tribes that they will be responsible for paying back more than $9 million to the federal government that was improperly spent.

County commissioners unanimously approved sending the letter, which states, “... we are informing you in writing that we do not plan to pay the billed amount.”

The Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) has advised counties not to pay while AMC works with Gov. Tim Walz to recover the costs from state funds.

The letter continues, “At the AMC annual conference, the AMC board of directors adopted a motion recommending counties not pay for the SUD IMD billing errors. During the same conference, we were pleased to hear Gov. Walz’s pledge to work with the Minnesota Legislature to ‘hold counties harmless’ for these billing errors. We are confident that by working together creatively and collaboratively, we will find a method for covering these costs from state funds.”

In other business, the board did as follows:

  • Approved the county highway department’s purchase of a 20-foot shipping container for storage at the Nevis shop. The low quote was for $3,000 from Any Way You Want It Moving & Storage of Grand Rapids, Minn.

  • Approved the purchase of a $43,756 asphalt pothole patching trailer from Stepp Manufacturing of North Branch, Minn. County Public Works Coordinator Jed Nordin said the item was budgeted and follows state contract pricing.

  • Accepted a $3,500 donation from the 3M Foundation to the Hubbard County Sheriff’s new K-9 program.

  • Approved the construction of three cubicles for the county social services department due to new hires. They accepted the low quote of $7,497 from Alternative Business Furniture, Inc. of Eden Prairie.

  • Adopted the Leech Lake River comprehensive watershed management plan and budget.